Saturday, December 29, 2007

News: Patterson Hero recovering in Hospital

Rescuer wishes he could have done more

David Gillespie, recovering from injuries incurred when he
helped pull two accident victims out their burning car
gets a hug from his mom Maretta Moore as his dad,
David C. Gillespie watch at Emanuel Medical Center,
Friday, December 28, 2007.
Photography Credit: (Debbie Noda/The Modesto Bee)

'Angels' pulled two to safety but couldn't save everyone

TURLOCK -- A Patterson man who helped pull two men from a flaming car wreck in Grayson on Thursday said he's no hero. He's just sorry he couldn't save the three people who died.

David Gillespie, 37, spoke Friday from Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock, where he was being treated for smoke inhalation after he worked with other unidentified passers-by to pull a Ceres man and a Utah man from a burning, overturned Toyota Camry.

The Camry was involved in a head-on accident that killed three people and sent three to the hospital. Two of the survivors, Walter Holcher, 32, of Ceres and Burris Fisher, 21, of Utah, were in the intensive-care units at, respectively, Memorial and Doctors medical centers in Modesto.

A California Highway Patrol officer identified the three men killed in the accident as John Rivera, 26, of Waterford, Brandon Mil-ler, 25, of Modesto and Cody Butler, 20, of Keyes.

Gillespie said he came upon the crash while coming home from his job as a truck driver in Keyes. He arrived minutes after the wreck, about 5:15 p.m.

When he got there, Gillespie said, the Camry was on its side, and two people in the back seat were partially trapped, with their torsos out of the vehicle but their legs pinned.

Gillespie said he and a few other people tipped the overturned Camry back on its tires. He said he quickly realized that Rivera, who was in the front seat, would not survive.

Gillespie said he then punched out the front driver's side window and pulled Fisher out.

"He was going to burn to death if I didn't get him," Gillespie said, adding that Fisher cussed at him while he struggled to save the man. "I figured, 'You can be mad at me later.' "

Accord driver still in hospital

Fisher was driving the Camry when it went out of control and collided head-on with a Honda Accord driven by Jose Barahoma, 40, of Delhi. Barahoma was taken to Memorial Medical Center with unspecified injuries.

According to the CHP, Barahoma still was there Friday, but further details were unavailable.

Gillespie said he and the other passers-by pulled Holcher from the back seat of the Camry while the car was burning, and used bottled water and fire extinguishers to douse him and the people inside the car.

They tried to get the Camry's door open, but couldn't get Mil-ler and Butler out of the back seat in time.

About then, Gillespie said, he began to realize how dangerous the situation was when the car's battery exploded, followed by the four tires.

"There was nothing we could do at that point," said Gillespie, who added that a water tender from the Westport Fire Protection District had arrived by then.

"It was the most helpless feeling I've ever had, and I hope to never have that again," said Gillespie, who suffered only minor cuts on his hands. He added that the other volunteers who helped deserve as much credit as he does.

A grateful sister

Gillespie said he checked into Emanuel on Friday after suffering chest pains, and said doctors told him it came from smoke inhalation and they would keep him overnight.

Fisher's sister, Heather Davis of Riverbank, wept as she described her gratitude to Gillespie.

"If he hadn't stopped, my brother wouldn't be here," she said from Fisher's room at Doctors Medical Center. Fisher, originally from Ceres, was visiting from Utah for the holidays, she said.

Davis, 34, said she didn't know where Fisher was heading when the accident happened. Fisher suffered two broken legs, a ruptured spleen, broken ribs and a skull fracture in the accident, she said.

Donna Rice, Holcher's girlfriend, said he suffered two broken legs, a ruptured spleen and a punctured lung in the accident. She said Holcher has been sedated since undergoing surgery Thursday.

"They're angels," said Rice, 35, of Gillespie and the others who stopped to help. "He's hurt pretty bad."

A CHP official said the accident is under investigation, but equipment failure or alcohol have been ruled out as possible causes. He said investigators will conduct tests to see if drugs may have contributed to the accident.

Original Source: Article Modesto Bee
Map: PDF Graphic: Site of accident
Video: Truck driver describes rescuing 2 men from fiery wreck

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